Obituary: Stephanie ‘Stefi’ Marianne Chase

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“Magic is the hearth

where the welcome-fire burns —

where joy lifts a beacon

in the gathering night,” wrote Stephanie “Stefi” Marianne Chase, a published and prolific poet who fell deeply in love with Idyllwild, writing fondly about the mountains throughout the half-century she lived here.

Stefi died about 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 27, 2005, at the Meadowbrook Convalescent Hospital in Hemet, where she suffered from Parkinson’s disease. She was 91.

Born Stefania Marianne Czajkowska on Jan. 9, 1914 in Minneapolis, she was the only child of Polish immigrants Anthony and Tekla Czajkowska.

“She had a lot of religious training,” said friend Jane Stonehill. Stefi attended a Polish Catholic school but was very interested in Eastern religions. “She spoke Polish until the day she died,” said Stonehill. Little else is known about her background.

Stonehill said Stefi was a person of strong opinion who was a Democrat and very liberal in her political views.

Stefi moved to Idyllwild from the desert in about 1950 and married well-known artist Val Samuelson. They later divorced but remained friends all their lives.

As she said in an April 2, 1965 Town Crier story about her first visit here, “I took a long, deep breath, made an eternal pact with the mountain and stayed.

“The idea was to write, write, write! But I found myself so involved with the enchantment of living in this environment, trying to encompass the wonders of each day, that I almost begrudged the distraction of taking up a pencil.”

Stefi told friends that she had hiked every trail in the mountains several times. In later years when she could no longer hike, her favorite day was one spent with friends at Uptown Coffee House, later Café Aroma.

“Whenever any music was playing there, John and I would bring her to Café Aroma,” said friend Alla Marshall. “I used to buy her tapes of music and one of her favorites was Simon and Garfunkel.”

Stefi called everyone “dear heart” and truly loved everyone, said Marshall.

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